New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?

വായന

27 October, 2010

Stifle not the whistle blower, says AHRC

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the actions of the Government of India in witch-hunting the whistle blowers and activists who dare to speak the truth, a skill the country's government has perfected in planning and executing sans differences between political regimes that hold power in the country.

It is reported that on 25 October, the Government of India decided to arrest Ms. Arundhati Roy on charges of sedition for a public speech she delivered concerning the appalling condition of human rights and the daily life of Kashmiris, who live in the shadow of perpetual violence and state-sponsored brutality in the excuse of countering terrorism. Over the past five decades India has demonstrated its shameful incapacity to deal with unending human rights violations; in particular, torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and arbitrary arrest and detentions carried out by its law enforcing agencies.

There is still no functioning legal framework within which law enforcement officers in the country could be investigated and prosecuted for crimes they commit. Instead, draconian legislations like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 provides statutory impunity to the criminals in uniform. Those who peacefully protest against this unacceptable status quo, like Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur, are detained perpetually by the state. There is hardly any interest by the state or the central government to improve the investigative skills of the law enforcement agencies. The country that claims to be a leading nation in world affairs and a stable democracy within Asia is internally run by a brutal police regime that is recruited, trained, deployed and promoted to engage in violence with impunity on the excuse of executing the writ of the state.

Law enforcement agencies are used to intimidate peasant farmers who resist forced and uncompensated eviction from their hut and hearth, when the state in collusion with corporate entities, decides to construct dams or other structures destroying farm lands; against villagers and the tribal when they voice their protest against massive excavation of minerals by devastating ecosystems and obliterating habitats; and against human rights defenders and lawyers who dare to expose the cancer of corruption that has eaten the country's democratic institutions right from its foundations to the roof. What is witnessed in states like Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir is the extreme form of this state sponsored violence.

The threat to arrest Ms. Roy is proof to the country's ever increasing animosity to everyone who dares to expose the truth or is willing to publically express his or her opinion. A statement issued by Ms. Roy after learning about the plans by the government to arrest her once again exposes the true colour of the Indian state and of those who administers it.

The AHRC fully endorses the views expressed by Ms. Roy and urges the Government to refrain from detaining her for what she has spoken concerning Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, the government, if it values and believes in the realisation of the democratic promise the founding fathers of the country has made to this great nation, must encourage dialogue and discussion to resolve disputes within the framework of rule of law and democracy.

# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

26 October, 2010

I spoke for justice, says Arundhati Roy



I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Yesterday I travelled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.

ARUNDHATI ROY
October 26, 2010

25 October, 2010

An Open Letter to the PM on 25th anniversary of Narmada Andolan

To
The Prime Minister of India
7, Race Course Road
New Delhi
INDIA

Sir,

The people in the Narmada Valley have been fighting for survival, for right to life, with dignity since the last twenty-five years, hoping that the Indian state would respond to their just demands. The Sadar Sarovar Project which was touted as the 'best project' ensuring ecological balance and ideal rehabilitation policy stands fully exposed with 200,000 and more people still in the submergence area, awaiting their entitlement and a few thousand Adivasis having lost their land to submergence, without obtaining agricultural land in compensation.

Not one, but four reports of the Expert Committee appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest till 2010 clearly indicate the position taken by the Narmada Bachao Andolan of grave non-compliance on environmental measures and conditions in the project clearance granted in 1987. Even the backwater levels of the project are far from finalized, after thirty full years since the declaration of the Tribunal award.

What about the benefits, you may ask. Kindly take time to look into the report of performance appraisal of the Sadar Sarovar Project. The Planning Commissions own working group on water resources estimate that the final project cost to be 70,000 crores by 2012. When such escalation, almost ten times of the original cost has occurred, how could a further clearance for 40,000 crores be granted, that too after having spent 30,000 crores without a review of the post benefit analysis, may we ask? The most shocking is the fact that Gujarat has built only 20 percent of the canals over thirty years, the ponded waters are not even utilised beyond ten percent, resulting in very low irrigation and power benefits, much below the expectations.

Obviously the enormous cost paid by the people and nature are not utilised in this situation. We all, concerned about the justice and the sustainability ion the development planning are highly disturbed and anguished and hence would like to issue this appeal to your conscience and your government to take serious cognizance of the unprecedented devastation to take place in the Narmada Valley due to the large dams and canals. We would like to assert that the central government, under your leadership, must immediately undertake a comprehensive review of not only Sadar Sarowar, but also the entire Narmada Valley project, involving the decade old non-violent people's movement.

There is a need, you would agree, to not only ensure democratic and just process in dam building but also to save the prime agricultural land, leaving dense populated communities of Advasis, farmers, fisher people and others and minimise unwarranted destruction, displacement and destitution. This is both possible and necessary and we would seek your full cooperation in this vital initiative.

Without your taking such a step forward, we do not see any other alternative before the people but to exercise all forms of democratic Satyagraha and resistance to assert their constitutional, legal and human rights.

Yours sincerely,

The people of Narmada Valley
National Alliance of People's Movement

Growth without justice

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Last week the Indian capital market came up with Rs2,360 billion when the government offered a block of shares of Coal India as part of the ongoing public sector disinvestment programme.

Also last week, hundreds of thousands of people, most of them members of tribal communities, gathered at two remote villages of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh as part of the ongoing struggle by the poor to save their land and livelihood.

The two events brought into sharp focus the contradictions inherent in India’s current developmental effort. It is producing two Indias: one flush with money and ready to grab good stocks and the other desperately poor and struggling for survival.

In theory the state has long been committed to growth with justice. The Constitution ushered in three years after the country gained freedom gives primacy to “justice — social, economic and political” in its statement of objectives. However, as the economy grows injustice too has been growing.

In the early years of independence, the government opted for a mixed economy in which the public and private sectors will have their places, with the former commanding the heights. Many huge public undertakings were established in keeping with this policy. Some of them enjoyed monopoly in their areas of operation. The private sector’s functioning was subject to curbs.

The globalised economy demanded a change in approach. The restrictions on the private sector were eased. Many areas which were earlier the public sector’s preserve were thrown open to private players. Foreign capital was allowed in.

The government also decided to divest part of the shares of the big state undertakings to raise funds for developmental programmes. Progress in this direction was, however, slow as organised labour controlled by leftwing parties put up stout resistance.

The course change resulted in acceleration of the rate of growth of the economy. As the economy boomed, pundits prophesied that the country would emerge as a major economic power by the middle of the century, closely behind China, which had made the policy shift a decade and a half earlier.

Business fortunes rose rapidly. Forbes magazine, the chronicler of the rich, counted 69 billionaires in the country this year. It also predicted that the wealthiest Indian, Mukesh Ambani, now at fourth place in the list of the world’s richest, might move into the top spot by 2014.

The Indian stock market was the one least affected by the global meltdown sending shivers around the world. It was also the earliest to recover from the shock. Coal India’s rich haul — through sale of its shares the government fetched as much as one-fourth of the national budget — shows investors are hungering for good stocks. Naturally, Indian Inc. is in an exuberant mood.

The two rallies in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement), are a stark reminder that millions in the country do not share the exuberance. Most of the participants were Adivasis rendered homeless by the massive Narmada river project.

The mega project envisaged diversion of the waters of the Narmada by constructing a chain of canals and dams to irrigate lands in MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat, provide drinking water to 40 million people and generate 1,450 megawatt of power.

Medha Patkar, a young research scholar, who visited the project site in MP 25 years ago, was deeply moved by the plight of the Adivasis whose homes were submerged by a reservoir. She stayed back, founded the Narmada Bachao Andolan and has spent the rest of her life fighting their battle as well as others whose livelihood is affected by similar projects.

Originally, the project cost was estimated at Rs64 billion. In 30 years the government has spent Rs392 billion and many more billions are needed to complete it. Critics claim the project goals could have been achieved through alternative schemes at much less human and environmental costs.

Since the globalisation process began in the 1990s, the Centre and the states have sanctioned many more projects that adversely affect the poor, especially the Adivasis.

A World Bank study of 2008 showed one-third of world’s poor are in India. It also revealed that rate of decline of poverty has fallen since 1990. Evidently, as the number of billionaires goes up the number of the poor also goes up. While the government talks of inclusive growth, more and more people are getting excluded.

24 October, 2010

Maoist given three-year jail term in China

A court in China sentenced Zhao Dongmin, leader of a Maoist group, to three years in jail on October 20 for "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order", according to media reports circulating among Maoists worldwide..

Zhao was arrested on August 19 last year after he formed the Shaanxi Union Rights Defence Representative Congress with more than 380 workers from about 20 state-owned enterprises to oversee and monitor public structure restructuring and report corruption and abuses of power.

The municipal government of Xi'an banned the organization on July 27. Zhao wrote an open letter protesting the action to the State Council, the municipal, provincial and central committees of the Communist Party of China. He was arrested 18 days later.

Zhao was the head of the Shaanxi Mao Zedong Thought Study Group, one of several Maoist groups in China that seek the restoration of a more egalitarian, fair and just society.

More than 50 scholars signed a petition this month stating that Zhao was not only innocent but had performed meritorious service and that his arrest mocked the rule of law and insulted trade union organizers.

The three-year sentence given to Zhao is on the upper-end of the scale for labour activists. The authorities nowadays tend to use threats, harassment and short-term detention rather than criminal trials and prison terms to suppress labour groups and activists. Zhao's Maoist allegiance is believed to have led to the relatively heavy sentence.

Zhao Dongmin, a lawyer and a member of the Communist Party of China, had been providing legal services to workers for many years to resolve issues such as unpaid pensions and loss of other benefits.

While Zhao was undergoing trial, the Concerned Group of 108 Veterans of the original 68th Unit and the 23rd Unit of the People's Liberation Army in Da-an City, Jilin Province said in a statement: “Any Chinese who has a conscience and stands for justice knows that what has happened to Zhao Dongmin has gone beyond a single incident. It has become something of political significance in today's China. It has become a test case for us to tell whether the Chinese Communist Party is a real Marxist-Leninist Party or a fake one, whether the government is a real people's government or a fake one, whether the Communists are real ones or fake ones, and whether or not those in the government are actually serving the people.”

Zhao Dongmin’s picture has been taken from the website of the New York-based China Study Group, which also provides details of his case. According to the website post, updated on October 21, he is due to be sentenced only on October 25.

22 October, 2010

Rohinton Mistry readings: video extracts

Video extracts of protest readings of Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey and the discussion on censorship, held at the Press Club, Mumbai, on October18, are available on Youtube.

Here are the links:

Anand Patwardhan reading out Rohinton Mistry's statement-in-progress: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oImTwKx2ok0

Meher Pestonji reads the controversial portions from Rohinton Mistry's book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggxbPmjeCpE

Discussion on censorship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KOwvVyTKvg

More discussion on censorship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69HIZPqneYM

Discussion and rounding up of the session: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnw6TA-r1kk

A young student gives her views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGJk6gSHbpU

19 October, 2010

Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace in honour of Irom Sharmila


Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu has been on indefinite hunger strike since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). An extraordinary struggle of an extraordinary woman!

Sharmila began her non-violent protest after the Malom massacre where 10 civilians were gunned down by the Indian security forces on 2 November 2000.

AFSPA provides special powers to arrest, detain and even kill civilians on suspicion. The power to search and destroy properties on mere suspicion is granted to the Armed Forces of the Union in the 'disturbed areas' of the North East (and subsequently in Kashmir). Wherever AFSPA is in operation, enforced 'disappearances', extra-judicial killings, tortures, rapes and arbitrary detentions have been the routine.

Even though when the Union Home Minster introduced the law in Parliament in 1958 he assured that the Act will be only a temporary measure, it has dragged on for more than 52 years now! The people of Manipur have done whatever is humanly possible to register their protests against AFSPA -- naked protest by mothers, self-immolation by student leaders, mass demonstrations, petition to the Supreme Court, complaints to the United Nations etc. But the Government of India remains completely indifferent on issues of right to life and dignity.

Today, Sharmila’s persistent protest has become unprecedented in the history of resilience! Her struggle lies not only in defending the most basic and fundamental human rights of her people, but also in questioning the very foundations of Indian democracy which venerates Mahatma Gandhi and his principles of ahimsa
or non-violence.

The Just Peace Foundation (JPF), in collaboration with the civil society in Manipur, is celebrating Sharmila’s indomitable spirit, her audacity to hope in the midst of adversities, her unwavering stand for justice and her deep yearning for peace.

Since 25 July 2010, JPF has been organizing a series of cultural programmes, concerts, painting competitions, exhibitions, press meets, seminars, literary and artistic activities, public meetings, poet’s meet, public rallies, poster campaigns, t-shirt release, book release etc to mark the 100 Days Countdown towards the decade long hunger strike which will culminate in a Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace
from 2 to 6 November 2010.

Justice H. Suresh, former Judge of Bombay High Court, has kindly agreed to inaugurate the festival.

The Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace will be a celebration of the indefatigable spirit of humanity. JPF humbly requests you to use this historic occasion to take whatever action possible to collectively engage again with age-old concepts of Justice and Peace and to reach out to the ongoing struggles of all the oppressed peoples across the world.

Kongpal Kongkham Leikai, Imphal East – 795010, Manipur, India
Email: - justpeacefoundation@gmail.com
Telephone - +91-9862696184

18 October, 2010

Such A Long Journey: protest reading in Mumbai

Three Mumbai groups, Citizen Initiative for Peace, Committee for Release of Dr Binayak Sen and the Mumbai Initiative for Human Rights Education jointly organized a reading of Rohinton Mistry’s novel “Such a Long Journey” at the Press Club today to protest against the withdrawal of the book from the university curriculum.

Mistry's award-winning novel, set in Mumbai of the early 70s, was being taught as a text to Second Year BA English Literature students. It was withdrawn suddenly on a demand made by the youngest Thackeray to emerge in the Shiv Sena.

Aditya Thackeray, 21-year-old grandson of Bal and son of Uddhav Thackeray, and a student of St Xavier's College, had asked the Vice Chancellor to withdraw the book because it contained uncomplimentary references to the Sena. The VC immediately complied.

Announcing plans for the protest reading, representatives of the three organizations had said, “For too long have parties like the Shiv Sena decided what we should read. Normally, politicians give in. This time, the man occupying the highest academic post in the University, the VC himself, went out of his way to oblige this particular student.”

Theatre personality Dolly Thakore and novelist Meher Pestonji read from the book.

This was followed by a discussion on “Censorship, Art & Politics'', led by well-known academician Prof Pushpa Bhave. Usha Subramaniam, Professor of English, who has taught the book, Kumar Prashant, writer and editor of Sarvodaya Jagat and Anand Teltumbde, writer and columnist of the Economic and Political Weekly participated in the discussion. Rohini Hensman, researcher and human rights activist, was in the chair.

Citizen Initiative for Peace is a group of over 80 activists, NGOs and other groups and individuals who have come together to initiate programmes, discussions and otherwise work towards maintaining peace in Mumbai city. Email- info@mumbaicitizens.com

Committee for Release of Dr Binayak Sen, Mumbai, was formed to campaign for the release of Dr Binayak Sen, vice-president PUCL, and a paediatrician who was arrested in 2006 under the draconian Chhattisgarh Public Security Act for standing up for tribal rights. After a two-year stint in prison, he is on bail now, while his trial continues. The group continues to fight for democratic rights and raises its voices against human rights violations. Email- icareforjustice@gmail.com

Mumbai Initiative for Human Rights Education is an organization whose seeds were sown at a National Human Rights Education Workshop organized in Mumbai in October 2003. Its mission is to promote human rights culture in the Mumbai metropolitan region through education in schools, colleges, universities and other higher educational institutions. Email- drtc@vsnl.com

POSCO project illegal: Enquiry Committee's majority report

Abhay Sahoo, Chairperson, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, writes:

Today three of the four members of the committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests confirmed that the POSCO project is illegal and that all of its clearances were obtained by breaking the law.

The committee has also found that the project has potentially very dangerous impacts on issues like water, air pollution, and the coastline, and none of this was ever properly evaluated.

After a detailed discussion of the huge number of criminal actions by the company and the Orissa government, the committee says (in the conclusion of the report):“The POSCO project is an example of how a mirage of “development” can be used in an attempt to bypass the law. Such attempts, if allowed to succeed, will result in neither development nor environmental protection, but merely in profiteering. This will cause immeasurable harm to the nation and to the rule of law and justice in our society.”

We particularly draw attention to the fact that the majority found that:

• The Orissa government and the Central government have violated the Forest Rights Act and tried to grab forest land that belongs to the people. This is the second official committee that has reached this conclusion.

• The project could cause environmental devastation particularly in regard to water, air pollution, coastal damage, danger of industrial disasters in case of cyclones, etc., all of which was ignored by the government.

• POSCO suppressed facts and tried to get around the requirements of law.

• The environmental, forest and coastal regulation clearances obtained by the project were all illegal and should all be revoked.

• The forest clearance can only be given subject to the recognition of rights and the consent of the gram sabha under the Forest Rights Act.

Those who keep talking of the POSCO project as one of “national importance” should answer these questions: would any other country in the world tolerate such violations of their law? Would South Korea tolerate an Indian company grabbing their land, breaking their laws and threatening to cause an environmental disaster? Is this what development means – robbing thousands of their lands and threatening lakhs with water shortage and other catastrophes?

As for the dissenting report of Ms. Meena Gupta, her position reflects her own interests. She was the Secretary that granted the environment clearance, and asking her to review it is like asking a thief to don a police uniform. Naturally she has said that all the clearances should continue. Her report is full of distortions, such as claiming that there are only 700 families in the area (when over 4,000 will lose their lands and/or homes). She tries to cover up crimes by saying that it does not matter if the law was broken; all that is required is to impose some additional “conditions.”

We call upon the Central government to heed the voice of the people and the findings of the majority report, withdraw all clearances and cancel this unjust, illegal and brutal project.

Democracy disgraced

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Karnataka will need a long time to live down the disgrace of the past fortnight which ended with the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party government overcoming the combined onslaught by a group of dissidents and the opposition.

The BJP, which previously shared power with former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal faction, had begun its solitary reign two years ago with a minority government headed by BS Yeddyurappa. It soon mobilised majority support in the State Assembly.

Ideology played no part in the transformation of the minority into majority. However, in a concession to democratic niceties, the BJP got the eight opposition members who switched sides to resign and seek re-election. Seven of them got re-elected.

Yeddyurappa ran into trouble when he reconstituted the council of ministers. Sixteen legislators — 11 BJP members and five Independents who were associate members of the BJP legislature party — revolted. To ward off pressure to return to the fold, they spent time in the neighbouring states.

As doubts arose about the support the government commanded in the Assembly, Governor HR Bhardwaj asked Yeddyurappa to seek a vote of confidence. The BJP petitioned Speaker KG Bopaiah to disqualify the rebels under the anti-defection law.

Bhardwaj, who was until recently an active Congress politician, asked the Speaker not to change the configuration of the house before the confidence vote. Bopaiah ignored the advice, disqualified all 16 rebels and posted policemen in uniform to prevent them from entering the house to vote. He declared the motion carried on a voice vote.

Refusing to accept the vote, the governor dashed off a report to the Centre recommending dismissal of the Yeddyurappa government and imposition of president’s rule. The disqualified legislators challenged the Speaker’s action in the high court.

As the Centre was unwilling to act on his recommendation, the Governor tried a new tack. He asked the chief minister to seek a fresh vote. Since the high court, while admitting the rebels’ petitions, declined their plea for an interim stay of the Speaker’s order, the BJP knew it could win even if there was a division in the house.

Yeddyurappa faced the Assembly again. The effective strength of the 224-member house had been reduced to 206 in the absence of the 16 disqualified members and two others, one belonging to the BJP and the other to the opposition Janata Dal. The house passed the confidence motion by 106 votes against 100.

Defection and horse-trading are not new phenomena but they manifested themselves in Karnataka this time on a scale unprecedented in the history of Indian democracy. Operators on both sides of the political divide reportedly offered huge sums to secure the support of legislators.

None of the participants in the political drama can look back on the events of the fortnight with any sense of pride. Yeddyurappa, never an inspiring figure, stands exposed as an ineffective chief minister. The failed coup has not enhanced the credibility of Janata Dal (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, who played a key role in the attempt to topple the government.

The Speaker played a partisan role. The Independents whom he branded as defectors were not members of the ruling party. Their status as “associate members” does not have legal sanction.

The governor’s conduct leaves him too open to the charge of political partisanship. His constitutional authority does not give him the right to direct the Speaker or even advise him on how to exercise his power.

Each of these protagonists can claim with some justification that his motive was good and that of the others was not. However, good intentions and bad methods do not go well together. Good democracy is made up of good practices.

Yeddyurappa cannot breathe easy yet. The high court has stated that the outcome of the confidence vote is subject to its verdict in the petitions filed by the disqualified legislators. If the court quashes the Speaker’s disqualification order, the validity of the confident vote will be called into question.

The chief minister probably faces a greater challenge from inside his party than from outside. There is pressure on him to rein in his cabinet colleagues, Janardhana Reddy and Karunakara Reddy, of Bellary, alleged kingpins of the flourishing illegal mining business.

The Bellary brothers, as they are known, are too powerful to be trifled with. They are not willing to fade away. In fact, they want one of them to made deputy chief minister. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, October 18, 2010.

05 October, 2010

Gang-rape of Adivasi woman: fact-finding report

The following is a press release issued by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS):

An all–India women’s fact-finding team of four members visited Gajapthi district in Orissa on September 30 and October 1 to investigate into the alleged rape, on February 12, 2010, of a 20- year-old Adivasi woman by security and police forces.

Village Jadingi along with other villages of Gajapati district have been subject to combing operations as the area is supposed to be having hectic Maoist activity. The arrest and rape of this woman has largely gone unreported and therefore there was a need to investigate. The team met the woman, her parents, people in her village, the sarpanch, panchayat samiti members, her two lawyers, local police station personnel, the jailer and the jail pharmacist. A telephonic conversation was made with the SP, Gajapathi district.

Facts of the Case

According to the police diary, the woman, a Kondh, resident of village Jadingi, Adava Police Station, Block Mohana, was picked up along with two others by SOG and other security staff led by ASI D. Mahapatra from their villages on 12 February, 2010. No woman constable was present at the time.

She was picked up at about 4 a.m. in village Jadingi, as per the testimonies of people in the village. Many villagers (more than seven, in the presence of the entire community) testified that the security personnel had forcibly entered their houses and beaten them up.

The woman was beaten up in front of her parents and other villagers. She was then dragged away along with three others (her brother and cousins) from her village. Subsequently, another two boys were picked up from Tangili, a neighbouring village. She was blindfolded while walking. Two of these boys were allowed to return after they had walked a few kilometers from the village.

The police records, however, show that she was arrested at 4:30 p.m, which is almost 12 hours after she was actually picked up from the village.

She was gang-raped in the jungles before being brought to the police headquarters. She has clearly stated this in her statement to the Magistrate, and also in her testimony to us. She was also shown obscene pictures on the mobile and sexually abusive language was used by the police/SOG forces.

She and her cousins were threatened at gun-point not to divulge any information about this incident.

Several people, including the sarpanch and her family members went to Adava Police Station to enquire about her and the others by about 10 a.m. on the morning of February 12 itself, but they were not allowed to go in and meet anyone, and were told that they have no information from the barricaded gates of the thana itself. They waited the whole day, but no information was provided to them about her whereabouts and safety.

A month later, the family was able to trace her to R. Udaigiri jail when some people of a neighboring village reported hearing that she was there. Upon meeting her, she immediately informed her parents about the rape incident.

Her father filed a complaint in the J.F.M.C. Udaigiri only in August 2010 about the incident of rape in custody. There has been a continuous atmosphere of tension and insecurity amongst the adivasi villagers in the area since this incident; people are voluntarily surrendering to avoid being falsely killed in encounters or arrested and getting stuck in jails uncertainly. All these factors, plus the fact that his daughter was engaged to be married in May 2010 and this kind of news would harm her future prospects played on the parents’ mind before taking this decision. They have also written to the Chief Minister, State Women’s Commission, State Human Rights Commission and Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court. They have received no response from anyone.

The Magistrate has taken the petition into cognizance, and has recorded her and her father’s statements. Despite the seriousness and gravity of the crime, the police has not taken any action in filing an FIR or initiating an enquiry against its own personnel. In fact, the SP does not feel that he should be doing anything suo motto even though he said he is well aware of the incident through various sources, including the media.

The manner in which she was picked up and the subsequent lapses in procedures clearly show that the security forces, the police, the court and the jail have completely disregarded all safeguards available for women in custody.

*She was picked up in the night hours from her residence.
*No woman constable was present at the time of her pick-up in the village.*No custody memo was given to the family members.
*Instead of anyone from the family / village, a ‘fake’ witness has been recorded in the arrest memo (her family members and local sarpanch waited in front of the thana the whole day but they were not given any information and could have been called in as witness).
*Place of arrest has not been shown in the arrest memo.
*No medical examination was done at the police station or at the time of producing in the court.
*At the time of producing before the Magistrate, she was only asked to sign some papers and her finger-prints were taken. She was not asked anything about ill-treatment and whether she needs legal assistance or a medical examination.
*At the time of entry in the jail, she reported being severely beaten up with rifle butts by the security forces (this was confirmed by the pharmacist also). Instead of taking this as a serious human rights violation and probing further (which might have revealed the rape in the beginning), this was considered as a routine case and was treated with simple pain-killers and other medicines.
*Only a cursory medical report has been prepared at the jail.
*Although it is mandatory that under-trial prisoners should be presented in the court once every 15 days, she has been presented in the court only once during the entire period of over seven months of judicial custody till the petition on the rape case was filed.

Demands

The Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression network demands:
*Criminal proceedings be immediately initiated against the police and SOG personnel who were part of the raid team on 12February, 2010 for committing the heinous crime of rape and/or protecting the perpetrators.
*Procedures and safeguards for protecting women in custody must be strictly adhered to.
*Women in conflict areas are much more vulnerable to sexual violence and we demand a serious response from the district and state administration when a woman shows the courage to make such a serious complaint.

Members of the Fact Finding Team:


Shivani Taneja (Bhopal) (tel-9425600382)
K. Anuradha(Vishakhapatnam)
Pramodini Pradhan(Bhubaneswar) (tel-9439200989)

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is network of women’s organizations, human rights organizations and individuals from across India. It is a non-funded effort initiated by women, and is concerned with atrocities and repression against women by state and non-state actors, especially in conflict zones. Contact Email: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com